The energy transition in Latin America


In early June 2022, schoolchildren and adult residents of the twin Chilean Pacific coast towns of Puchuncaví and Quintero began complaining of headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Local doctors said the illness was due to high levels of air pollution, including dust particles, arsenic, and sulphur dioxide. This was not the first time it had happened. There had been similar cases of mass intoxication in 2018. The source of the pollution was widely attributed to a nearby industrial and processing hub containing 18 major units, including a fossil-fuel powered electricity generator operated by AES de Chile and, significantly, the Las Ventanas copper smelter plant, which was processing nearly 500,000 tons a year of mineral concentrate, and was operated by Codelco, the state-owned copper corporation. For years Las Ventanas had been a notorious source of local pollution.

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